Unexpected. Unprepared. What do you do after a car accident?
No one can anticipate the chaos of a car crash. Immediately after a car accident, fear, confusion and uncertainty are common emotions. It is so difficult to be clear-headed amidst the smoke and debris. It is possible, however, to have a plan of action in place long before the moment of impact. Our goal is to help you with that plan. Here are some of the most practical, useful things you can do, should you find yourself a victim after a car accident.
After a car accident, stay put.
Not only it is unwise and unsafe to leave the scene of an accident. It happens to be illegal. If you’re in a crash, no matter how minor, STOP.
Check for injuries.
Before tending to others, take a minute to inspect yourself for pain or injury. You can’t help others if you’re incapacitated. After a car accident, check your passengers. Ask questions. Inspect for visible injuries. If it is safe to exit your car, check the occupants in the other accident vehicles. If you find someone is seriously injured, unless their life is in immediate danger, DO NOT attempt to move the person as this may cause further injury, permanent damage, or paralysis.
Secure the space.
Whenever possible, protect other drivers from becoming a part of the accident. Put on your hazards. If your car’s electrical system has been compromised or poses a safety threat, use flashlights to illuminate the area. Consider purchasing emergency roadside flares, which can be found at most big-box retailers.
Call the police.
In New Jersey, it is required by law to call local law enforcement if the accident has caused a death, an injury or damages in excess of $500. However, it is always prudent to alert the police to any accident, no matter how minor. In the event you will need to build a case in the future, a police report will be necessary to provide proof of the accident.
Talk facts, not feelings.
Remain calm as you communicate with others. After a car accident, understand you may be emotional. Resist the urge to speak out of emotion – especially anger, remorse or fear – as you may inadvertently say something that can be construed as an admission of guilt. Do not interfere with the police investigation by offering your opinions, thoughts or feelings. Be cooperative and discerning during your conversations with law enforcement. Respond accurately and appropriately. If you suspect the possibility of injury (as many injuries aren’t evident until hours later) say so. The adrenaline rush that often follows an accident may dull you to the pain of your injuries.
Take photos. Listen to conversations among others. Be sensitive to your environment. Do you smell alcohol or illegal substances? Take note of the appearance of the other driver. Is he/she wearing eyeglasses? Gather as many details as possible to ensure your accident is accurately reported. Snap photos of the scene, of damages and injuries. If possible, get photos of everyone involved. Get names, license plates, and any other personal information about the other driver. Record everything, but stay out of the police investigation. We offer a free kit to help you document and compile your accident information. Request our free Accident Toolkit here.
Write an account.
After a car accident, the trauma may jar your memory. While the experience is fresh in your mind, draft a detailed timeline of the accident before your memory fades. The details may prove invaluable should you need to go to court. To help you unpack your thoughts, request our free workbook, Diary for the Injured. This handy resource also provides an entire section for you to document your injuries. This information is essential to defend your position and substantiate your claims, if you are forced to sue. As an experienced team of accident litigators, we know the important details you’ll need to record to build a strong case. Order a free copy here.
See a doctor.
If there is a remote indication you were injured in an accident, see a doctor immediately. Some injuries take time to manifest themselves. Living life as usual, without medical intervention, may exacerbate hidden injuries. Additionally, the more you delay, the more difficult it will be to identify the accident as the source of injury. Should you pursue legal action against the other party, the opposing attorney will argue against your injury claims citing those delays. Don’t take that chance. See a doctor. Get care. Get your injuries documented by medical professionals before it’s too late.
Report to your insurance company.
As part of your policy agreement, you are required to report any automobile accidents to your insurance provider. If you are in a serious accident, get medical care first, talk to an attorney second, then contact your insurance company. It is to your benefit to know and fully understand your insurance policy terms and your rights under the law, before you discuss them with the carrier.
Remember that the auto insurance industry is a FOR-PROFIT business. Insurance providers will prioritize their bottom-line over your care, striving to pay you as little as possible. And you are in a binding contract with them. You should know before and after an accident, what your contract says, what it means, and why it matters. Find out more info on auto insurance here. If you have questions about your current coverage, contact us to go over your policy terms, absolutely free of charge. Before you’re in an accident and stuck with your current terms, make sure you know what coverage you have, whether or not its sufficient, and if you should make changes. Give us a call.
Auto accidents may be scary and disorienting. Accident injuries may interrupt your life. While the experience may temporarily derail your plans, if you’re adequately prepared and educated, you’ll be stronger on the other side. If you need help getting through it, we are here. Contact us today.